by Susan Trollinger
If the object of the Creation Museum is strange, the object of the Ark Encounter is even stranger. At the Creation Museum, a central idea seems to have been to attempt to re-create certain scenes that Genesis says occurred in the Garden of Eden. Thus, as visitors wind along the set path in the Creation Museum’s Garden of Eden, they see Adam naming the animals, Adam waking up from his God-induced sleep to see Eve for the first time, and the Serpent hanging out near Adam and Eve prior to the Fall.
Importantly, visitors walk among scenes from the Garden. They do not walk through a life-size re-creation of the Garden. That is, there is no effort at the Creation Museum to re-create the Garden of Eden in its entirety. That would be absurd, to be sure. And unnecessary. Visitors can make the metonymic move from a scene in the Garden to the Garden. And, really, it’s the stories that are the focus anyway, not the Garden itself.
Not so at Ark Encounter. There, apparently, it is not enough to tell the story of the Flood by showcasing this or that scene from the story. It is not sufficient (as it is in the Creation Museum) to re-create a portion of the Ark and allow the visitor’s imagination to supply the rest. Instead, one must build a life-size re-creation of the Ark according to the (somewhat ambiguous) dimensions put forth in Genesis.
Just on the face of it, that makes for a strange object. One reason is because it means spending $100 (and counting) million dollars to construct a gigantic object dedicated to making the argument that the story of the Flood (which AiG argues was global and killed as many as 20 billion men, women, and children not to mention untold numbers of animals) should be understood as central and guiding to Christian faith.
Another reason has to do with what is at the heart of AiG’s argument—that only one particular reading of Genesis (there are many other “literal” readings available) leads to a true, authentic, and proper Christian faith. If we don’t take Genesis literally, so the argument goes, why would we take Jesus literally? If we say that the Flood is mythical why not say Jesus was too? So, to secure our faith against such a slippery slope, we need to read all of Genesis literally. And to make that point to visitors, AiG saw fit to build a full-size Ark! Just like the one in Genesis—same length and height and depth, same materials (or thereabouts), same construction methods (or something like that).
All that focus on literalizing the Word—making it literal in three gigantic dimensions. It is impressive when you approach it. But for all that literalizing, isn’t it odd that it’s not actually a boat? It’s a completely stationary structure held up above the ground by huge concrete supports underneath it and even larger vertical structures in the back.
If the point of building this gigantic thing is to convince visitors that reading Genesis literally is crucial for their Christian faith, what does it mean that the central object is not actually the product of a literal reading? Strange object indeed (with even stranger objects inside—see our earlier post).